How the Body Narrows the Interaction with the Environment

In Yann Coello & Martin Fischer (eds.), Foundations of embodied cognition: Perceptual and emotional embodiment. pp. 181-197 (2015)


Embodiment matters to perception and action. Beyond the triviality that, under normal circumstances, we need a body in order to perceive the world and act in it, our particular embodiment, right here, right now, both enables and constrains our perception of possibilities for action. In this chapter, we provide empirical support for the idea that the structural and morphological features of the body can narrow the set of our possible interactions with the environment by shaping the way we perceive the possibilities for action provided. We argue that this narrowing holds true in the perception of what we call strongly embodied affordances, that is, relevant micro-affordances that have a genuinely demanding characteristic, as well as in the perception of actions performed by others. In particular, we show that perceptual contents are shaped by fine-grained morphological features of the body, such as specific hand-shapes, and that they change according to our possibility to act upon them with this body, in this situation, at this moment. We argue that these considerations provide insight into distinguishing a variety of experienced affordance relations that can aid us in better understanding the relevance of embodiment for perception and experience.

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Mog Stapleton
University of Edinburgh

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